Print literacy…. What is it?

Print literacy lies at the very heart of digital literacies. Concepts of print are “the basic understandings of reading” (McKenna & Stahl, 2009).

“Concepts of print can be viewed as basic knowledge about how print in general, and books work”
Holdgreve-Resendez, 2010a.

Reading is the quick, and mostly unconscious processing of continuous print with understanding. The goal of all reading is comprehension; the degree to which readers understand what they read is the degree to which they profit from and enjoy it, as: “Reading without understanding is not reading” (Lyons & Pinnell, 2001).



On completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • define key concepts pertaining to print literacy
  • explain how much and why print literacy is relevant in the process of language learning/teaching
  • select resources for the classroom and design print literacy tasks for your students


What is print literacy?


Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum (2014: 8) define print literacy as “the ability to comprehend and create a variety of written texts, encompassing a knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and discourse features alongside reading and writing skills”.


About print literacy

Learning and teaching have evolved dramatically through the last decades. The relevance of print fluctuated and trends in education have caused some traditional teaching methods to become archaic. Despite many crying the ‘death of the written word’ Dudeney et al (2014) claim that the printed work has acquired an additional relevance online. Most of our online sources are in writing. Access to visual and audio material has indeed increased, but our students are still reading printed text, albeit in shorter excerpts.

Language learners are now required to “skim and scan extended texts, assess and analyse opinion pieces, and evaluate subtle cues of tone and intent in status updates, [they] carefully plan and compose blog entries, build persuasive arguments and counter-arguments on discussion boards, restructure and copy-edit their own and others’ work on wikis, and express themselves succinctly in tweets”, Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum (2014: 8-9). As language teachers, we are not facing and trying to remediate illiteracy. Our students are already able to read and write, but they need to learn how to read online and how to write in different formats. We need therefore to focus on developing this new type of print literacy with selected resources and tasks designed to this end.

Watch one of the videos published on the YouTube channel Ophecira on Informational Reading:

Print literacy in your class

The table below provides an overview of activities you can use to enhance your students’ awareness of the differences between handwriting and typing, and between printed texts and online texts. Just click on the links! And don’t forget to check the list of language specific resources at the bottom of this page!

Context of useIDTitleRelated themesLanguages
OverviewPrint literacy, what is it?EN (outline) FR IT
Working with handwritten and/or typed textsWorking with handwritten and or typed textsEN (outline) IT


Source/attribution: Digilanguages           Author: Alexandre Jacquot/SN

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